Giving Thanks

photoSome people say “Grace” at dinner and others don’t.  In our house, we try to have the kids review their day and give thanks for one thing.  That may sound sweet or adorable, but rarely is it peaceful or angelic.  Most times, it’s just frustrating.

The first fight is about who gets to go last.  Grace inevitably wants to be last so that she isn’t cut off by a sibling’s turn and can just keep right on talking.  James always says, “I’m grateful for all of you,” with little variation, which gets a resounding “BORING”.  Now it’s a contest to see who is going to say that first because the latest “rule” in the giving thanks exercise is that you can’t say what someone else has already said. Oh, yes, it gets better and better.

The next delightful thing that happens is an argument among the three boys to see which of them can outshine the other.  Ian is that much older and, frankly, quite the brownnoser. He’s perfected the art of  syrupy sweetness toward his mother, whereas the other two are just little boys.  Because of this, we’ve implemented another rule: We can’t just say what we are grateful for, but now have to say why, and they are starting to keep score.

Elena (3) always says the same thing: “I’m grateful that I cried in the China“(long story), unless it’s her turn to be last and then she says “I’m grateful that I’m last”.  Regardless of which answer she gives, there is always the chorus of  “Aaahh, come on Mummy, that doesn’t count. She always says the same thing,” which begins a discussion about what is age appropriate.

Grace has to be philosophical about each grateful thought expressed and then has to explain it to us all as it relates to her life.

Most days there is at least one argument, or more common, a fart joke thrown in to ensure any reverence I might have hoped for was thrown right out the window.   Kids end up rolling on the ground, laughing in hysterics (causing more flatulence and then more jokes). I can’t keep a straight face and so it spirals downwards and the whole point is moot.

So why do I persist?  Truth to tell, I’m not sure.

There is the odd time that something resembling a thoughtful discussion is had and I see a light bulb starting to glow. Other days I am just so grateful that they are laughing and loving each other that it doesn’t matter.

It’s hard with such diverse ages, but what I have noticed is that they are learning to respect each other’s ideas, especially when those ideas are less sophisticated than their own.  Eric is very good at expressing himself and it takes Patrick longer to formulate his thoughts. Grace always wants to talk and Elena tries to keep up.   But they are learning to stop talking (even Grace) and let someone else have the floor—not easy for small children, or some adults for that matter.

There are many challenges that come with a large family.  Each child gets less one on one time, the money must be spread more thinly, the demand on time in general is unbelievably difficult, and they need to help each other because we can’t be in all places at all times.

Ian leads by example and is teaching all the kids that family comes first, how to be a good person and a good son.  Eric helps Patrick with his French if I’m not home, Patrick reads to Grace and Elena and Grace teaches Elena how to colour, write and talk—endlessly. They understand intuitively that they can trust in the support of their siblings and they are learning to listen to each other’s needs.

I am so grateful for who they are all becoming, even if the lessons I want them to learn through our “being grateful” exercise are different than what one would expect.

If I could leave them with just one lesson in life, it would be that when tragedy strikes and we have no strength to stand on our own, it will be through the love of family and friends that joy will have a path to return to our hearts. This makes these life lessons worth every exasperating and frustrating moment.

Guess I just answered my own question about why I persist.

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6 Responses to Giving Thanks

  1. Sandi Ellis says:

    Hi Patricia
    I am exhausted from reading this post. haha Do you get to eat at some point?? ha! Seriously though it sounds like a great learning experience for the kids.

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!


    • patriciahung says:

      Ha ha, you’re right. I guess more than one miracle happens during meal time.

      Thank you, Merry Christmas to you too.

  2. Debra Morrison says:

    Of course, most nights its a circus–you’ve got quite the cast of characters there….yet at the end of the day, I’m sure they boast to their friends about this custom and their friends are envious at one level of consciousness or another. We are NOT alone, and we do need each other. Prayers for your family this Christmas. Perhaps you throw in a curve ball on Christmas night, asking them how Stefanie would have been proud of them this year…
    Merry, Merry Christmas!
    P.S. James….step it up, man! 😉

    • patriciahung says:

      Great suggestion Debra! As long as I can keep it together for them, I might ask just that.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family as well!! I’ll be sure to share your advice with James – no doubt if it comes from you, he’ll listen!

  3. Paul Moffatt says:

    I truly Love your family so much ! When I hear the boys read in church , or the girls just smile,… makes my day ! I came from a family of 5 3 boys and 2 girls, and there is 18yrs difference between first and last……I am last and 9 yrs between myself and my next oldest sibling (brother). We hardly ever shared a dinner together (except Christmas) I love them all, but we are so different because of the times we were brought up in the house ! I want to be adopted by you, and truly share the closeness and Love you all bring to the table each and every day ! You are special people with great gifts to give us all ! Thats what I am thankful for ! Your gift to me!
    P.S. I would probably pass gas as well ! so I could blend in perfectly !

    • patriciahung says:

      Could you imagine a police family adopting a fireman, even one as great as you? We might take as much ribbing for that as for our licence plate! Seriously though, you’re welcome any time although I’m sure just once would be enough to have you running back to the tranquility of your own home.

      But thank you Paul, those words mean a lot to me. As much hard work as it is most of the time, the rewards are well worth every minute of it especially after their all asleep 😉

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